Title: Ferris Wheels and Hot, Vicious Scientists
Series: Ferris Wheels & You
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Content Warning: NC-17
Warnings: Character Bashing, Explicit Sex, Hate Crimes, Homophobia, Kidnapping, Violence – Canon – Level
Genres: Alternate Universe, Science Fiction
Relationships: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay
Word Count: Goal = 40,087
Author Note: Canon jumped off the train several stops ago. The warning for Hate Crimes may be excessive but wanted to be sure I was covered if I jump off that cliff. I borrowed a line from Stephen King.
Summary: John Sheppard loves Ferris Wheels, college football, anything that goes over 200 miles per hour, and hot, vicious scientists. Rodney loves science and John. People are going to learn just how vicious a scientist can be when you mess with what he loves.
By the time the guards had returned John to his cell, his shoulders were cramping from being cuffed to the table for so many hours. His wrists were also a bit cut and bruised because of his stupid actions when Weir threatened Rodney. He’s pretty sure it was that reaction that led them to leave him there. They want him upset and off-balance.
Truthfully, he was only fooling himself to think all this time that they wouldn’t have been planning to make an attempt to get Rodney. Everything was becoming clear to him, and it was starting to freak him the hell out.
It was obvious that Elizabeth Weir was crazy. Plain out crazy. He had thought she was a little out there when he first quit the expedition, but she either went round the bend afterward or she had just been hiding it. Given that she still has a position of power, she’s probably very good at appearing normal. Which means he’s screwed because she believes she doesn’t have to pretend with him.
Then there’s Sumner. The guy had a reputation as a hard-ass. But, at this point, he’s blindly following Weir. And so are these marines. Oh, many of them are showing a bad attitude, and there is a lot of anger in there. However, all of them are spouting the exact same party line.
John did some simple stretches from his bunk as he thought, careful of the probably cracked ribs. It was the same thing, over and over. We should have been in Pegasus. We would have found a mountain of weapons and treasure. We were going to be heroes.
They talked like it was a trip to the mall instead of a one-way mission with no intel and no plans to get them home. Sure the SGC was building a spaceship. How the hell could they be sure it would make it to Pegasus and back. John took a look at what he could before he screamed foul, and frankly, he got the feeling that the whole thing was being designed by two people who didn’t speak the same language.
The door opened, and John sat up. Sumner and a marine carrying a food tray were at the door. John could barely glimpse two others behind them.
The marine stepped forward and placed the tray on the floor. Sumner nodded at it. “Eat up Sheppard. We are wheels up at 0600. Relocating you out of the soup pot.”
John jerked a little, this isn’t good. “Where are you moving me?”
“Don’t worry. We’re just taking you someplace a little more secure while we wait for our team to bring your little boy-toy into the fold. Maybe you’ll feel more cooperative.”
John bit back his response as they stepped out, and the door closed. It was several minutes of desperate breathing after they left before John could get up for the food. It tasted like dust in his mouth, but he ate every bite.
Rodney had his head down on his desk, a blanket draped over his shoulders and a cup of hot chamomile tea with probably half a bag of sugar by his hand. It was nearly four hours of questioning by Vancouver police before a couple of RCMPs showed up and took over the case.
Seems at least one of the kidnappers’ fingerprints had a hit from a prior drunk and disorderly in Vancouver. He was U.S. military and had been picked up on leave the year before. Somehow his fingerprints disappeared between the first query and the followup. Strange how that happened. ‘Don’t worry, though, they have a paper copy, just getting it from the files.’
Lou had happily turned over the security recordings that showed the entire mess from three directions. Rodney wasn’t even aware Lou had that many cameras on the premises. Jeez, he and John had sex all over the place those first three months. He made a mental note to make sure Miko had all the best chocolates on subscription. There’s no way she doesn’t have blackmail material.
Rodney tried to get his brain to stop racing. He was all over the place with random thoughts. He needed to get it together. Lou had rotated her men to give the ones involved downtime. The police had collected their evidence and left a car out on the road near the damaged fence. Everyone was safe now. Right?
Shaking his head, Rodney stood up and let the blanket fall off. They weren’t safe, and they would never be safe. They had John, and that scared Rodney to death, but John was a grown man and understood what was happening. Madison, however,…he swallowed hard.
Little Maddie who had screamed inconsolably in Jeannie’s arms when the police had pulled Rodney away for an interview. Little Maddie who had been used and threatened as a pawn to make Rodney comply. That sweet little girl who had bravely closed her eyes while Lou killed the animal that was using her as a shield. He would get John back, of that he was certain. But before he did, he needed to be sure they would never lay a finger on Madison again.
Rodney left his office and walked down the hall toward the group office. He stuck his head in and called “Radek!”
“Rodney, how are you?” Radek stood to follow him as Rodney turned and immediately started walking away.
“Fine. I’m here. We’re all here. We need to make sure we stay here.” He was headed toward the Security Office where he knew Lou was talking to the response team.
“Yes, is good to stay here. You have plan to make happen?” Radek asked.
Rodney stopped at the doorway and looked at him, “As a matter of fact, I do.” He pushed the door open, “Lou! I need your men to pull back inside the Office campus border.”
“And why is that, McKay?”
“Because Dr. Zelenka and I are about to run a full-scale test of Lab 4 and I wouldn’t want any of them to be left out in the cold.”
“Rodney. Is not ready for full test. Pulls too much on generator to expand so far.” Radek shook his head and leaned in, “Is good idea, but maybe just as emergency. Temporary only.”
“It’s too much drain for the generators yes, be we have a working GSEM.” Rodney waved off the complaints. “Your tests work perfectly. Now we have power.”
Radek started to nod, calculations running in his eyes and a big grin spreading across his face, “Now we have power, yes. Will need change on coupling.”
“Of course, we can cannibalize Lap 2’s…”
“Yes, will work, Lab 2 worthless. They will never make work anyway.”
They turned to leave, but Lou was blocking the doorway. “Gentlemen, would you like to share with the rest of us what you are planning?”
“Yeah, Doc,” Imes said from where he was sitting on top of his desk. “What exactly is the experiment in Lab 4?”
The men and women from security perked up to listen. They only vaguely were notified of the type of equipment in the labs and general level of danger as sometimes they had to prepare evacuations during testing. But Lab 4 was an odd little lab that had been built directly in the middle of the campus.
Rodney grinned a crooked grin and motioned for Radek to explain. It was his project, after all.
“Is shield. Is complicated explanation, but is energy shield. Think Star Trek, ‘Shields at full power.’ With enough power can put bubble around whole campus. Have only played inside lab, but in theory, will work.”
“Holy crap! You mean you guys have been creating things like that here, and we never knew? That is awesome. What about blasters and lightsabers? Oh, transporters?” All of Security was grinning madly.
“I’m glad we have so many sci-fi fans here, but one step at a time. Right now that’s power and shields. So if I could get some help and some escorts.” Rodney snapped his fingers in his hurry-up pattern.
Everyone stood to volunteer, and Lou took over making assignments. While Radek headed out to Lab 2 to scavenge, Rodney picked up the GSEM and headed to Lab 4 for the setup. Runners were moving to gather anything they needed.
Rodney pulled the test coupling they had set up to get readings and test power. They would need to adapt it for full contact. He unlocked the controls around the shield. It was a fantastic piece of work, and he was proud of Radek. He had taken an idea, and when Rodney said why not work it up, Radek ran with it from proposal to primary tests.
Sure, the shield took an immense amount of power to sustain at full strength, but they had that now. And even at a half or a quarter power, the U.S. would have to send some powerful weapons to disrupt it. If they tried to bomb them on Canadian soil, it would be an act of war, so Rodney didn’t think that would happen.
So, next worry would be them trying to find a way to bypass it. He pulled up the program on the computer while starting to solder an adapter to the coupling. The stuff Radek was bringing would need a mating dock, and he could work on that while waiting.
Radek entered with two escorts, one carrying a box. “Have parts will need…oh, yes that will work.” He set it down and pulled out some parts, “Move is my work, I fix.”
Rodney stepped away and went back to the program. “There is no reason this won’t work. We will be fine on brute force, so we need to safeguard the signal to prevent interference. I’m thinking—modulate the harmonics?” Rodney turned the screen, and Radek squinted.
“Yes, is good thought. More secure. You work, I connect. Won’t need changes until shield is stable.”
It took a little over two hours to finish the work. Security sent the call out, and everyone pulled back to the buildings after Lou warned the police on guard duty that the scientists were going to perform a test that might be visible so do not become alarmed.
Most of the team had drifted to Lab 4 when it was finally time. Jeannie wasn’t letting Maddie out of her sight yet. So when it was time, Radek asked her to push the button. As Radek with the help of Miko watched the readings, Rodney stepped outside to see the faint hint of shimmer as the campus was engulfed in a half bubble of the shield.
With Miko staying behind to watch the power drain, Rodney and Radek accompanied a team from security as they approached the edge. Neither objects that were thrown at it or people touching it could pass through. Miko reported that the drain on the GSEM was minuscule and holding steady. By her calculations, they could run it for a thousand years without depleting the module. At least a thousand years.
Radek just stared at the shield in wonder, then turned to Rodney with the biggest grin he had ever seen on the man’s face. “I did it. I am genius. Normal genius not a big-headed ass, but genius.”
Rodney finally let some of his tension release. “You did it. Welcome to the club.” And now Maddie is safe.
Rodney gathered the team in their main office. His only regret was that Radek’s celebration was tainted by necessity and treachery. He looked them over as they waited for him to speak and knew he was asking a lot. But, he needed them to have a last chance to walk away.
“Thank you, everyone. I know it’s been stressful, and you’ve all been doing your best to help John and me. I truly appreciate everything you’ve done, everything you’ve accomplished. John and all the Sheppards thank you as well.”
He picked up his water and took a sip. “I know I’ve had you doing some questionable activities to get me information that will help bring John back to me, back to all of us. I can’t really ask you to do more than you already have, but I’m going to anyway. We all know Miko and Joe have tiptoed across the line of legal. Due to their actions, we discovered a…” Rodney choked a little and held up a hand to stop Jeannie from standing. “We discovered a traitor in our midst. Thank you for finding out in time.”
“The way I see it, they didn’t step over a line, they annihilated it. It no longer exists. I’m tired of playing by normal rules. I’m ready to play by their rules. I don’t expect any of you to be willing to break laws. So if you can’t do it. If you are afraid of repercussions, walk away now. No one will blame you.”
He watched as everyone traded looks, but no one stood. “Jeannie, think of Madison.”
Jeannie stood up and walked to Rodney, “Mer, I am thinking of Madison. What kind of world do I want her to grow up in? It’s not the one where they will use her as a pawn against her Uncle Mer. It’s not one where they just take her Uncle John. What happens the day she proves she’s as brilliant as you? I know that day is coming, Mer, and I want to know she’s safe when it does. You don’t get to do this alone.”
He reached out and grabbed her for a hug, then turned back to the room. “Thank you. Thank you all. I promise you that if anyone wants to prosecute you for what we’re about to do, you will have the full financial and legal backing of the Sheppards behind you. If that doesn’t work, we’ll relocate the damn company someplace without extradition and throw a shield over a whole island.”
They smiled at him, and Miko asked, “What do you want us to do?”
“First, we hack the hell out of them. I want to know what they had for breakfast in the third grade, their first date, their mechanic, dry cleaner, dental records. Every detail of their lives. Joe is going to continue following the money, she’s right that someone is funding this bullshit.”
“And what will we do with this information?” Miko raised one elegant eyebrow.
“Then we use it against them. When we know everything we can about them, we make them pay. They will regret ever touching John or us.”
Rodney was reviewing information as fast as they could pump it to him. He knew that word of the shield would get back to the SGC quickly, how could it not. Lou had already communicated with local law enforcement regarding the shield, and they were keeping people away. Joe had contacted Mary, and the PR Department was issuing a statement about the successful test of the Shield. Adding that the shield would stay up as they were testing longevity and power consumption models.
Joe was back at reviewing financial data, and it was a mountain. But, he did have to concede that her head for business had her assimilating it and making connections at a speed he couldn’t have matched.
Radek was trying to track down the mysterious Ben Kane. The man was slippery and barely had an online presence. He was currently tracking the man’s travel as it was one of the few things where the name was recorded.
Miko, on the other hand, was utterly terrifying. Apparently, it took her twice the time to stay legal as it did to dive deep and dark. Rodney was no slouch in the hacking department, but Miko was a ninja on the keyboard. He had known it in theory when he hired her. That kind of skill borders on the supernatural, and you want it working for you, not against you.
She was proving that now. She would slip into a system, and make a surgical strike on the data they wanted. A few places Rodney could swear she was either adding back doors or stepping through ones she had already created. It was a thing of beauty to watch, and he could have spent hours at it if he didn’t have a purpose in mind.
“Rodney!” He looked up from his screen to meet Miko’s eyes. “I found John.”
Rodney practically ran to her side, barely beating most of the room. “It is the Naval Consolidated Brig, Chesapeake. I have tracked him to this location and hacked the video feeds. There are no cameras near the cells that we can view on the network, but I found this recording of the hallway outside one of the meeting rooms.”
Video played, it wasn’t great, but it showed John in a prison uniform and restraints. He was being escorted by a five-man team. As they neared a turn there was a brief shot of John up close, he was moving stiffly, his face badly bruised, and his left eye swollen shut.
Rodney choked back a sob and reached toward the screen, his fingers briefly brushing against it. He coughed slightly and pulled his hand back by his side. “Find out who those people are. I want to know everything about them.”
Joe pointed, “That one is Marshall Sumner. He’s the one who took John.”
Rodney nodded slowly, “Then start with Marshall Sumner. Because this will be his last action as a Marine.”
“Yes, Chesapeake, Virginia,” Rodney repeated. “According to the records Miko found, he’s been there since the day he was recalled.”
“Did they recall him just to arrest him?” Dave sounded angry.
Rodney felt the same. He had emailed the clip of John before the call. The fact Patrick had been quiet as long as he had meant he was furious. Patrick’s fury was always cold and quiet.
“No. If they just wanted to charge John with something, there was no reason to go to the trouble of recalling him. They wanted something from him, and he refused to talk, so they put him in a position where they had the power and could force him to talk. It’s all bullshit because we know what they want.” Rodney was waving his hands around.
Patrick’s voice finally came through the line, cold and hard. “Are you certain, Rodney? I realize this all followed your work with the GSEM, but they were requesting a meeting with John before your successful experiment. John has turned them down repeatedly over the last year.”
“I admit someone has been keeping tabs on him. They put Viktor in here before anyone in the company even knew about my project. They gave him the perfect background to make him fit in. So, yes some of this is about John. We made an agreement when we got together to not share any more info than we had to because we didn’t want to take a chance that we would step over a line the other wasn’t authorized to cross.” Rodney ran his fingers through his hair.
“But…Patrick the people who have been asking for that meeting, they asked at least five times a year since he walked away. They pull some strings, get themselves on his agenda, then he cancels it, and they give him some space and try again. They’ve been playing a game of letting him know they know where he is for a while, but that’s it. Something changed. Something happened that this time when he said no, they didn’t walk away. The only change I can see is GSE. He canceled that meeting, and four days later, four days after we are successful, they won’t take no for an answer.”
“You’re right. They took John in the only way he wouldn’t fight them, then they immediately came after you and your work. The lawyers are certain they can fight the hold against the company. I’ve got my military contacts digging in to find out what’s happened with John, but so far either they’re not finding anything, or they’re not calling back. I can go up the chain, but frankly, I want more ammunition before I do.”
Dave’s voice was surprised, “Dad, you’re not just going to wait while they beat the crap out of John, are you? This isn’t just some business deal, this is John’s life.”
“David, jumping in at this point could do more harm than good. There’s a bigger picture here that we aren’t seeing. If we want to free John for good, then we need to be able to control the players. It’s like when I was teaching you boys chess. You don’t play the pieces.”
“You play the player. Yes, I know. I’m just so frustrated.” Dave responded tensely.
“John knows we’re working on getting him out of this. We’ve been playing catch-up on this. We need to be able to get ahead of the game, plan our moves. Rodney, I know your people have crossed a line.”
“I’m not going to apologize for it, Patrick. They crossed that line first.” Rodney crossed his arms and lifted his chin. He wasn’t backing down.
“I don’t expect you to. Your team has my support. I will do everything in my power to protect them. When this is over, I want every computer destroyed. Don’t leave evidence they can find. I don’t care what you do or how you do it. They brought this on themselves.” Patrick paused for a long moment.
“Let our little Dark Webspinner loose to set her traps and wreak havoc with their lives. We need to knock them off their game while we close in on the real masterminds. This is a case where a little confusion can be our friend.”
“Gladly. I’ll let her know you approve.” Rodney smiled wryly.
Patrick sighed audibly. “I know you and John have your secrets. And I’ve never asked. I understand what work in classified environments can be like. You have secrets you have to keep whether you want to or not. But, I think we all know that what’s happened is entangled in those secrets.”
“Patrick, I can’t.” Rodney groaned.
“Rodney, they have my son. As far as I’m concerned, they and their secrets can all go to hell. They took my son off the street. They sent their little black ops team to kidnap you from my property. They were willing to kill to get you, and those secrets you’re keeping are letting them do it with impunity. No more. I want to know. No, I need to know, and I need to know now.”
Rodney sat back and stared at the phone, the silence spreading out and forcing him to look at the problem from a different angle. “You’re right. You do need to know. Something about this whole thing is off. The Program, well, it’s always been classified beyond belief, but everything they’ve ever done has been to keep it classified. To keep people from asking questions.”
Rodney shook his head in confusion, then realized it was speakerphone. “This whole production doesn’t make sense. The heavy-handed approach with John, kidnapping me, legal action against SI. It’s blatant, inelegant. This isn’t the way to keep people from asking questions.”
“So tell me, Rodney. Information is power in this type of war.”
Rodney grimaced. “I won’t break my NDA. That’s what they are claiming, so I can’t give validity to their claims. But, I may know someone who can authorize you to be read into the program. I’m warning you now, Patrick. This isn’t something you can just forget about once you know. It’s….life-changing.”
“I don’t care. Make your calls, Rodney. Because one way or another I will find out.” The line went dead, and Rodney put his head in his hands.
He argued with himself for at least fifteen minutes before he picked up the phone and started to dial. He had the number to bypass the switchboard. He had promised himself he wouldn’t use it.
“Office of the Prime Minister.”
“This is Dr. M. Rodney McKay. I need to speak to Antoine.” Rodney drummed his fingers on the tabletop nervously.
“Sir, I’m uncertain how you got past the switchboard, but the Prime Minister is not available for private calls.” She sounded like she was one of those opinionated old biddies that Marguerite liked to push off on her brother.
“Right, well, since I have the direct number to the office, I suppose it’s because I’m allowed to bypass the switchboard. Now if you could just do your job and tell Antoine I’m on the line, I’m sure he will pat you on the head and take my call.”
“And don’t hang up on me. I would prefer not to have to wait for him to answer his private email because we both know the man is barely computer literate.” Rodney stopped and took a deep breath. “Look, I’m sorry. I’ve had a horrible day, and I don’t want to take it out on you. Could you at least tell him I’m on the line, and if he doesn’t want to speak to me, I’ll let you go in peace? But I assure you he will want to take my call. Just tell him Rodney wants to talk to you and he will take the call.”
“Very well, I will ask.”
Rodney lay his head down on the table while he waited. It wasn’t a long wait, not even three full minutes. “Rodney?”
“Antoine. Thank you for taking the call.” Rodney sighed in relief.
“Of course, I will always take your call. I have reports from Vancouver, Rodney dear. Is that you causing a fuss?” Antoine’s voice had that little quirk of a smile in it that Rodney remembered so well.
“Probably. I…I have a question for you. And maybe a request.”
“Ask. That’s all I can say.”
“When you took your oath of office, I know you were read in on many of the biggest secrets of our world. Was one of them bigger than all the rest? Out there…really, far, out there?”
“Rodney, you know I can’t discuss the secrets I’ve learned.”
“There’s one I worked with for several years. In the U.S., they like to study things. Like deep-space radar telemetry.” Rodney held his breath and listened. The gasp on the other end answered his question.
“You know that mess with my citizenship you helped straighten out before you took office? That was all wrapped up in the program.” Rodney took a long, cleansing breath. “John and I have tried to walk away, but they won’t let us. They recalled John to service and then incarcerated him without filing charges. We obtained pictures that he’s been beaten. He’s a dual citizen and married to a man against their regulations. They tried to kidnap me in Vancouver today and almost killed my niece. Think about it, Antoine, armed U.S. Military tried to kidnap a Canadian citizen today on Canadian soil. And they will try to hide it in their Program and tell you they had a right to do it. All because they want my experiment for themselves.”
“Are you alright, Rodney?” The concern flowed from his voice.
Rodney sighed, “Yes. Well no, not without John. But I’m not injured.”
“What do you want from me?” Antoine’s voice firmed up, all business in that way Rodney remembered so well.
“Amnesty for my team. Your political pressure for John when we need it. And, I need you to read the Sheppards into the Program. You have the authority to do so.”
“Yes. The Sheppards, and perhaps your team as well?”
“I would rather they never have to know. But yes, your authority to read my team in if it becomes necessary is appreciated.”
“Done. I will have Canada’s IOA Rep meet with the Sheppards immediately. Where are they?”
“In Washington, D.C. Who’s the rep now?”
“Well, Marguerite, of course. She is there now for meetings.”
“Ouch. How is Marguerite?”
“She is fine, and still does not forgive me for stealing her boyfriend.”
“Then it’s a good thing I never told her I only dated her to get close to her brother.” Rodney grinned at the memory.
“No, we swore never to tell her. My sister is vindictive. It is good she is on our side, but don’t tempt her.”
The grin became wistful, “Never. Antoine…thank you.”
“Don’t worry, we will get back your John for you. I always knew I would not be enough. I’m glad you found someone who was.” The phone clicked off, and Rodney slowly lowered it onto the table.
Rodney got up to fix himself a scotch before returning to the phone. “Patrick, you are going to be visited by a woman named Marguerite Lemoine. She will have a stack of papers about six inches thick for you to sign, and then she is going to tell you the most ridiculous story you have ever heard. I guarantee you every word she says is true.”
He finished his scotch and then climbed into the bed, pulled his pillow close and thought of the choices he had made and the ones still left to make.
“Wake up. Sheppard.” The guard’s voice called through the door, the sounds of something banging on the door followed.
John opened his eyes to take in his surroundings, the cell was dark, only the faintest hint of light showing that it was still considered night. He sat up slowly as the door opened.
“Time to get moving.”
It was several minutes later that he found himself once again restrained and being moved, this time out of the holding facility. “Where are we headed?”
No one answered, and the way they watched him without looking at him said they wouldn’t be answering. He was placed in an SUV, and he wondered if they were headed back to D.C. The turnoff toward the airstrip told him, no, and he started to worry. If they took him out of Virginia, or heck, maybe out of the U.S., Rodney and Dad would have no clue how to find him.
He was pulled out of the vehicle and prodded into the plane. Col. Sumner was waiting on him. He relaxed his posture and forced himself not to react. He was determined not to give the bastard the satisfaction.
“Have a seat, Sheppard.” Sumner motioned to one of the benches. “Sorry we had to wake you so early, but the flight to Colorado will take a few hours.”
John stiffened against his will at the mention of Colorado. They wouldn’t.
“Oh, that’s right. You were too much of a coward to go through the gate. Well, we wouldn’t want to deprive you of the experience. I have a nice little prison off-world. I think you’ll enjoy yourself.”
John sat back in the seat as they cuffed his arms down and buckled him in. He felt his heart racing even as he tried to appear as if nothing mattered.
Rodney woke to a small body across his chest, grasping on like a leach. He saw Maddie’s eyes moving under her eyelids in dream, and gently ran his fingers through her hair, calming her. The shift of a chair caught his attention, and he saw Caleb’s eyes watching him.
“Sorry, she had a nightmare and was crying that the bad men took you. We had to let her see that you were ok, and then she wouldn’t leave. We didn’t want to wake you.” Caleb whispered.
“That’s ok. If it helps her sleep, let her. I’m sorry she was in the middle.” Rodney apologized again.
“No, I know you would have done anything to keep her safe. I don’t blame you for any of it. Neither does Jeannie. We’ll be ok, eventually. Until then, we do everything we can to protect her. That means protecting you, too. Because she needs to know Uncle Mer is safe.”
Rodney nodded and moved slightly, “I need to get up.”
Caleb shook his head. “You need more sleep. All of you do. Take some time to rest with your niece.”
“Um, Caleb,” Rodney looked toward the restroom, “I need to get up.”
“Oh, sorry.” He rolled Madison away, and Rodney gently left the bed.
“Look, I really do need to check-in. It’s after seven, so I’m sure the others are already at it. Why don’t you lay down there with your daughter and see if you can get her to sleep for a couple more hours.” Rodney stopped by his cabinet and grabbed a change of clothes before slipping in to shower.
Clean and with enough sleep that he was thinking straight again, Rodney walked into what Joe had labeled the War Room. Jeannie looked up from her computer and raised her chin while cocking her head in a way he knew was asking him how he was. Rodney gave her a half-smile and rocked his hand. Jeannie nodded and went back to work.
Radek was sleeping on a pallet next to the printers. The man had the uncanny ability to sleep anywhere. Rodney sat down next to Joe and took in her sweats, fuzzy bunny slippers, and wet hair pulled back into a ponytail. He waved a hot cup of tea under her nose and held it back when she reached blindly.
“Did you get any sleep?” He looked at her closely. Her eyes were tired but no longer bloodshot and bruised.
“I’ve had seven hours.” She firmly took the tea and raised an eyebrow as she tasted her favorite blend doctored with just the right amount of sugar.
“Don’t let it go to your head.” He raised his chin, daring her to say anything.
Her eyes narrowed, and then she grinned and turned back to the numbers. He stood but reached over and pulled her ponytail and looked down into her face when she looked up. “Take time to get some breakfast. Maybe some snacks for the rest of us?” Joe nodded and stood up to leave, taking her tea with her.
Rodney turned to watch Miko. She had noted his arrival but hadn’t stopped typing. He made a motion indicating that he wanted her attention, and she flicked her hair to the side in the movement that meant she needed a few minutes. Having learned the hard way not to interrupt, he moved over and started to put a throw over Radek. An eye opened to stare at him.
“Been asleep long? Why don’t you go find out where Lou set up bunks?”
“I slept. Checked shield. Slept. Have search program running, so sleep some more.” Radek stretched and looked around for his glasses.
“Did Miko sleep?”
“Yes, is her way when hacking. She sleeps on in cycles and hacks in between. Harder for anyone to anticipate attacks. She is rested just not all at once.”
Accepting that was as good as he would get, for now, he sat down and check his system for updates while waiting for an update from Miko. She was their lead on this phase, but he had decided things were about to get dirty.
The typing suddenly became furious, and he exchanged looks with Radek before they both quietly moved behind her to watch. Rodney cocked his head to the side. Miko was downloading files into D.C.’s Metro Police Department’s systems. They stepped back to give her room and waited until she exited the system cleanly then cleared any traces.
“So?” Rodney asked.
Miko turned back steely-eyed. “If they wish to arrest John, they should appreciate the experience. Bench warrants will be served on several individuals. Perhaps if they had gone to court to resolve their issues, then they would not be serving time.”
Radek shook his head, “Will not stick. Is false arrest.”
“First, they must prove it.”
“What is point? Is inconvenience only.” Radek turned as Joe entered the room with fresh mugs and a tray of breakfast burritos.
Rodney headed for the food as well, “No, it’s good. It’s a distraction. We need more to keep them off guard. Most of them will never know where it’s coming from, the rest can’t touch us.”
“What of John?”
“The ones who touched him? Their lives are over. I’ll leave them in a room with Lou before this is finished.” Rodney took the fresh coffee and looked around at his team, his gaze settling on Joe. “Tell me about the money.”
“There’s a lot of it moving around. They’ve been throwing it around to grease the wheels.”
“Do we know who they are yet?”
“It funnels through a variety of shell corporations, but it all feeds back to one, Hammel Technologies. They’ve been at this a while. I’m finding payments to civilian contractors out of Nevada, politicians, military. Though I’m still tracking links. For example, every time a payment goes out to Nevada, a separate one is made to a General out of Colorado.”
Rodney leaned forward, “What is this General’s name?”
“Landry.” Rodney cocked his head to the side and shook his head in the negative. That wasn’t a name he knew. Joe continued, “Jones Jet Propulsion and Viper Avionics are working on something big in the middle of nowhere. Whatever it is, it is big and secret. They’re payrolling about one hundred people who seem to work nowhere. Thing is, whatever they’re working on, both of those companies are owned by Hammel. Whoever hid the connection did it well, I’m just better.”
“Good, then it’s time for some retribution. The warrants are petty, let’s hit them where it hurts. I want you to freeze all accounts. Everyone’s. Start at the top and work your way down. Everyone who’s taken a payoff or is in charge of any of this, I don’t want them to have access to their penny banks. For now, I would prefer just screwing them over in a way that isn’t theft.”
Rodney turned toward his sister. “Jeannie, I think some of these good people need to have their cars repossessed. Considering your high school boyfriend still hasn’t recovered from it, I know you can get those orders through.”
“He deserved it.” She muttered as she moved to her computer and sat down.
“You should all know that these people, they work on an extremely classified project. If you stumble across classified material, I’ve been authorized to read you in on it, but I would rather you never have to know.” Rodney argued with himself a moment. “If you stumble across anything that’s really out there and stupidly bizarre, let me know.”
Rodney moved back to his desk, and Radek followed. “What of me?”
“I need you to keep eyes on John. I need to know if they try anything. Patrick has his lawyers trying to get access to him.”
“Ano, yes.” Radek returned to his desk.
Twenty-something minutes later, Radek was cursing. “They moved him.”
“Transfer shows released to Col. Sumner. Forty minutes later was on scheduled transport to Colorado. Why move him to Colorado?” Radek stared at Rodney with worry.
But Rodney was frozen in place, his mind moving faster than sound. They couldn’t, they wouldn’t. It’s the only reason. He snapped his fingers at Radek three times fast. “Are they there yet?”
“Arrived two hours ago. What is it? Rodney, what is in Colorado?”
Rodney rushed back to his computer and typed furiously to create a connection. “Colorado is the deep dark pit of despair. That’s what Colorado is. Come-on. Tell me you didn’t find it. Please, please. Tell me you didn’t find it.” He barely noticed as the team crept up behind him to watch the code flash across his monitor. “Yes! Not as smart as you think you are.”
“You have back door into classified systems.” Radek traded looks with Jeannie.
“I didn’t trust them. I had a damn good reason for not trusting them, and I was right. Again. Just wait—OK—I’m in. Miko, follow my lead. I may need you to run interference.” He read out the IP and a few instructions.
It took him several minutes to find orders for a prisoner transfer to their off-world detention base, and Rodney’s heart started to race. They were going to take John away to a place Rodney could never reach him. Rodney accessed the schedule. There were seven teams off-world. They expected a dial-in any moment, and John would be transferred out immediately after. Fuck that!
Miko was in and transferred a video feed from her monitor onto the large screen TV they kept to review video of their experiments. It was a split view of the Stargate Command Gateroom. She was controlling the cameras and focused one of them on a group of marines, John standing restrained in the center.
As they watched, the Gate began to cycle, and the sploosh of the wormhole forming caused them all to jerk just before the iris closed. A voice Rodney barely recognized called out, “SG-9’s iris code, General Landry.” A reply could not be distinguished. A four-man team walked through the water-like surface, waved to the armed guards and headed down the ramp. The gate shut off, and the iris retracted.
“Mer, what the fuck was that?” Jeannie may have started it, but they all joined in.
“Not now. Not now. I don’t have time.” The video showed the guards rousting John toward the middle of the gateroom floor. Rodney began typing in earnest, shredding protocols and bypassing protections. He didn’t bother to ask forgiveness of those who were out there, John was depending on him, and that’s all that mattered.
On the video, the gate began to spin, and the voice over the speakers called out, “Chevron one encoded.”
John was fucked, he was seriously fucked. He stood in the middle of the Gateroom floor and watched the gate dial, his life dialing down with it. He didn’t know much about gateroom operation, but he was sure of one thing, if he went through that gate they would never bring him back.
The guards kept their hands on him to keep him from trying anything, and other than Sumner’s team and the General, no one had looked at him close enough to be able to ID him later. He didn’t know if that was self-defense or if Sumner had done this so many times that they just didn’t pay attention any longer. Either way, he was screwed.
He watched his life dial away and thought it was pretty fucking disgusting that the ring could remind him of a Ferris Wheel, if even in passing. They hit four chevrons, and then one of the power relays to the gate overloaded and blew. The guards dragged John back against a wall. Another blew, and sparks were showering through the gateroom.
John glanced up, and the people in the control room were flapping around. He saw one of the computer monitors blow. Sirens blared, blast doors lowered, and he was dragged up off the floor to the level of Command. The techs were typing furiously, but something was happening system by system. Finally, when only the last computer was left, the lights went out, and the only thing visible on the darkened monitor screen was a message.
“Give me what I want and I’ll go away.”
Joe watched Rodney and Miko as they continued to hack the secret base even after the lights went off on the screen. Miko had taken some instructions from McKay that sounded like gibberish but resulted in what looked like night vision on the screen. The military was moving carefully, emergency lights had eventually flicked on in this area, and the screen was adjusted again.
It was a couple hours before Rodney seemed to relax slightly. Whatever it was he was locking down, he accomplished with little problem. It was amazing and terrifying. That spinning pool of blue they had seen people emerge from was enthralling and, well, a mystery she desperately wanted to understand.
Jeannie Miller, who stood behind her brother following every move for the last two hours, was staring into his face. “Mer, what is that? I think we need an explanation here.”
He looked up and stared at her face a moment before shifting his gaze to include everyone else. Joe made eye contact with him, encouraging him to confide in them. Eventually, he ran a hand over his face and nodded like he was holding a conversation with himself.
“The big circle is what we call a Stargate. Ignoring all of the science, for now, it can create a stable wormhole that connects with a similar device on another planet. Once established matter can be sent through it from the origin point to the destination. To return the gate is closed and redialed from the other end.”
Joe opened her mouth to ask a question because, honestly, she had soooo many questions. She held back when he briefly held up a hand, asking everyone to wait.
“There’s a lot of history, but another race who could travel between worlds built the network and set them up. That race looked a lot like us, and they’re gone now. But we aren’t alone out there. An archaeologist of all things figured out how to open the gate. A team traveled to another world and learned there is a race of parasites out there who use humans as hosts. A long time ago, they kidnapped people from ancient civilizations and used them as slaves to populate our galaxy. Our world was able to revolt and buried the gate. Well, gates, but that’s another story.”
Rodney pointed toward the large screen where one of the cameras continued to focus on John and the other on the room. “That is what is called Stargate Command. It’s a secret base deep below Cheyenne Mountain. They send teams out to fight against the parasites, they’re called Goa’uld and like to pretend they’re gods. They also make treaties with other worlds and do scientific research. They were going to take John to an off-world detention center. I couldn’t let them do it.”
Joe finally couldn’t hold back, “There are real aliens out there, and they are keeping it a secret? Does the U.S. think they can just do anything they want?”
Rodney shook his head, “This isn’t just the U.S., though they’ve had control of it. There are a lot of governments that are read into the program. Yours, mine, Russia, China, France, etc. They have a pact to keep this a secret from the world. Honestly, do you think most of the people out there are ready to know they aren’t alone? People are stupid, you know that Brewer.”
“Rodney, is this what Russia was really about?” Jeannie looked halfway between gutted and furious.
Rodney nodded and looked sick. “I never wanted you to know, Jeannie. I didn’t want you and Madison to be involved in this. This secret—once you know it, there’s no unknowing. I had permission to read you all in if I decided it was necessary, and I’m sorry it is. I just couldn’t let them take John someplace I would never get him back.”
Jeannie leaned in and hugged her brother. “You did the right thing. I would have done it too. You know how I hate keeping science secret. It just infuriates me.”
“Jeannie, you can’t tell anyone.” He glanced at everyone before locking eyes with her. “I mean it. Not a soul. There are going to be some nondisclosure agreements that you’ll be required to sign. No matter how you feel, you have to think of Maddie. Think of Caleb. All of you think of your families. This is a secret that you can’t share. They don’t joke around with this shit. John and I both knew we were read into the program, but we never talked about it. We didn’t talk about it because neither of us knew how much the other person was approved to know. It’s a line you just don’t cross.”
Joe followed all of the others, acknowledging what he was saying. There was just so much she wanted to know. She shook herself slightly and moved back to her computer. “OK, so the best way to protect John right now is to finish what we started.” She started to type and looked up to see a grateful smile on Rodney’s face. She pointed at him and raised an eyebrow. “But now that we know, I’m going to have so many questions. I, however, was raised with the manners to know when it is best to ask a question and when it is impolite to press.”
Jeannie laughed and hugged her brother again. “OK, I can take a hint. Work now, questions later. Lots of questions later. If I have to sign a damn NDA, then I’m going to find out everything I can before they shut me down.”
John leaned back and propped his shackled ankles up onto the catwalk railing. He had been stuck in the gateroom with his minders for the last ten hours. Shoot, it had taken them at least four hours to get the blast doors down here to open. Apparently, there were still levels that were on lock-down.
The only things that were running down here were the backup emergency lights, air circulation, and water. And John smirked at the knowledge that they only had that because Rodney wanted John to be comfortable. He had no doubts in his mind about that one.
Knowing Rodney was at work gave him hope. They had tried to access everything through three laptops, but within moments, all the laptops were scrolling the same message, “Give me what I want and I’ll go away.”
He had heard the tech guys in passing. They were freaked out. Nothing they did let them bypass the hack, and they couldn’t get the power running. They had something they called a naquadah generator, but they couldn’t reach the level they were on, and there was no one here that knew more than the basics to plug them in. John wondered if these were the generators Rodney had mentioned.
John was tapping out Johnny Cash’s Got Rhythm on the railing when Sumner came out of the office with the General following. He reached John and hauled him to his feet.
“Who is doing this?”
“Not too bright, are you?” He was slammed back against the wall and barely kept his feet as his damaged ribs were hit.
“Look, son, this isn’t in your favor. If you know who is doing this, you need to tell us.” General Landry, as the name-tag read, said in a stern voice. “You are already in trouble, you don’t want things to get worse.”
John slouched back, “Seems to me being kidnapped and forced off-world when you all know for a fact that I’m innocent is about as bad as it can be. You tell me how much of a chance I have at coming home once I walk through that wormhole. The way I see it, I have zero motivation for helping you.”
“It’s unfortunate what is happening to you, but you need to be able to see the big picture. There are a lot of people that could benefit from the type of power McKay has stumbled on. We have reports that he can be hard to work with, but you were known to be a team player. Right now there are six teams off-world with no exit and no backup. I know you don’t believe in leaving a man behind. Help us out so we can bring those men and women home.”
John stared them down grimly for a moment and then grinned. “It’s a good try. But, you see, they all signed up for it. Unless you are sending out slave labor, every single one of them had a choice. I don’t, and until I do, I don’t see a reason to cooperate. I think the message is clear here boys, Give him what he wants and we’ll go away.”
“Right now, I can be your friend or your enemy. You need to think this through. Do you want another enemy?”
“Seems to me all I have here are enemies. I am a trained military asset. I have received some of the best training and conditioning there is when it comes to hostile situations. I know how to analyze a threat, and one of the first things I learned is that it’s not the military I should fear. Even when they’re homicidal homophobic assholes, I know where they’re coming from. But the scientists, they will rearrange your world. Never mess with the scientists.”
“It has to be McKay. Our team was supposed to pick him up and bring him in. How the hell did they end up dead grabbing one whiny geek?” Sumner asked Landry, ignoring John completely. How dare they go after Rodney.
Landry shook his head, “According to the spotters that blond in security stopped them and murdered them all.” He glanced once at John. “Now the whole compound is under a shield and McKay is untouchable. Sheppard is our only leverage.”
“No, I understand Dr. Weir wanted him under wraps. She has her own agenda. But I need to remind you all that I am in command here and I’m not going to keep command long if I can’t keep control of my mountain. We keep him here for now. At least until we can get our hands on the ZPM and control of McKay. Frankly, I don’t think he’s going to be a good long-term asset if we take his actions today into account. But for the short-term, we get everything we can out of him.”
“First, we have to get out of the Mountain,” Sumner complained. He looked back toward the control room. “They still don’t have communications out of here. Outside protocols mean they will soon rule this a potential foothold situation and send in troops. We really don’t want people outside our control asking questions, General. Dr. Weir pays you well to ensure you leave our operations alone.”
“Don’t try to threaten me. Take our prisoner to holding. Stairwells are blocked open in the lower levels. Make sure he’s alive to talk to McKay and get him to see reason.” Landry turned and walked away. John thought it looked more like sulking away.
Sumner motioned the guards closer. “Take him to holding. Make sure no one talks to him unless they are with us.”
Rodney motioned to Radek, stood up, and stretched. They were taking it in two-hour shifts to monitor the mountain. Every time the Mountain tried something new, Rodney cut them off and locked them down. If it weren’t about John’s life, Rodney would be horrified that these are the people protecting their planet. There’s only one or two there that were remotely dangerous with a keyboard. He was mildly sorry about the people stuck off-world, but then he saw SG-1 on the list and decided he wasn’t as sorry as he originally thought.
Rodney passed by Miko and leaned down to kiss her on the cheek as he saw her canceling credit cards and ruining credit ratings. She was up to nine computers running at this point, and he wasn’t remotely interested in slowing her down. Miko’s retribution was a thing of beauty. The SGC would probably spend months unweaving the web she had spun over people’s lives.
He stepped out of the room and saw Lou passing by with a few of her men, checking in. “Anything I need to know about?”
“I’ve been in touch with local authorities. At this point, they are under the impression that the kidnappers were attempting to stop your test of the shield and have assured me that no one will interfere. They are interested in the stability and longevity of the device as they can see many applications for city and law enforcement. I’m referring them to PR for any questions regarding that aspect, but have explained that this is still a prototype.”
“Thank you, Lou. I know all of this isn’t easy.”
“McKay, I’ve said this before. This is my job. I have absolutely no problems with what I did yesterday, what I do today, or what I may be called upon to do tomorrow. I made a promise to protect you and yours at all cost. The fact I was able to do that brings nothing but satisfaction.”
Rodney nodded and met her eyes, “Ok, but for Maddie, I will always thank you.” She squeezed his arm slightly, then walked away with her team.
He walked around a while until he realized where he was headed. He hadn’t been in John’s office since this all began. He walked around, thinking of the last time they made out in his desk chair, throwing around schematics for the Gem…GSEM, dammit. A framed picture of every Ferris Wheel they had ridden together since they met.
He sat down in the chair and placed his hands on the blotter. He raised the top page to see the doodles and scribbles on the page below. Planes firing weapons at clouds that showed the word Rodney punched out. Tears started to fall as he realized how close he had come to losing John.
A light knock on the door before it began to open, and Joe entered. She walked around the desk and sat on his lap, hugging him while he tried to stop the tears. “Who knew you were human.”
“You’re still short and opinionated—and a business major.”
“This business major has figured out everyone involved that’s on the payroll. If you know where we can take this, they could get them all. I just don’t know if any of it is admissible in court.”
“Oh, please. Look at what they’re doing to John. I doubt any of them will see a court of law. Most will just disappear. I really, really hate it. But, unless they go public, it’s the best we’re going to get.” He moved to stand up, “Anything else I need to know?”
“Well, now that we have learned that the government can travel to other worlds, what else is out there that could surprise us?” She raised an eyebrow begging him to speak.
Rodney sighed. He hadn’t wanted to bring them into the crazy. But there was no hiding the Stargate, and frankly, he hadn’t stopped to consider when he was saving John’s life. He finally had to cut them off by promising to tell them everything after John was back.
“Come on, let’s see what the children are up to.”
Rodney entered to see Radek, Jeannie, and Miko around Radek’s desk. He hurried over, worried the SGC had reactivated the gate. Instead, they were staring at Jeannie’s laptop to the side where she had been hacking the home computers of some of the higher access people on their lists.
“What is it?”
“Someone’s been a bad boy, Mer,” Jeannie said with a little grin that almost matched his own. “She pointed at the screen. I downloaded everything. The Chief Scientist out of Area 51—and I’m still burning by the way over the fact that’s all real—well, this guy Dr. Peter Kavanagh has been smuggling classified data out of there on his personal laptop.
Miko tapped her fingernails along the top of the screen, “His security is idiotic—so is his science. He obviously doesn’t understand a tenth of the work.”
“Did you know they’re building a spaceship out in Nevada? A real spaceship, but apparently he can’t understand the engineering of it to save his life. They had a little grey alien there helping with the engines, but he quit and went back home because he couldn’t deal with the stupid.” Jeannie was completely blase over the alien but screwing up the science on the spaceship irritated her. Sometimes he really loved his sister.
Miko smiled at Rodney, “You need to repeat after me.” Rodney raised an eyebrow at her and lowered his head to look her in the eye. “You are my goddess and my queen.”
“He has blackmail on a few of the people we have. But he has one that’s not on our list. Vice President Kinsey has been a bad boy.”
Rodney grabbed the laptop out of Radek’s hands and scrolled through the data. He bounced in place as he read it. Right there in black and white. He let Radek take back the machine and turned to grab Miko’s face and kiss her. “Miko Kusanagi is my goddess and my queen, I worship at her feet. Get me a copy of that. I also want it printed out and assemble a report on all the rest of them. I want the complete list.”
He turned and headed to the door, picking up the pace as he moved. “Mer, where are you going?” Jeannie called behind him.
He turned back to look at them, “I need to get Lou to ready an escort and prep the jet, I have to call Patrick and some others to set a meeting, and I need to go to D.C. so I can get John back.”
“Patrick, just be prepared for that meeting. I’ve sent you all the data. It’s encrypted with the algorithm we set up. Don’t view it on a networked computer. I will be arriving with Antoine. Don’t worry, Lou will have my security team. We’re leaving all the others in the shield.”
There was the sound of Patrick letting out a deep breath, “I wish I could talk you into staying there as well. I don’t want to give them a chance to get their hands on you.”
“I trust Lou to stop them. I’m not going to sit back here, when I know I will be more effective there.” This was non-negotiable. Rodney needed to be in the middle of this. He’s been through the data, and he can see how the players fit together now. But, he has momentum, and he needs to keep it up.
“The team will stay here and keep the Mountain locked down. That’s the best containment for those players. But there is serious corruption here, and we need to make sure it’s cleaned up. It’s the only way to keep everyone safe. Those documents show that this goes almost to the top. We know the President is clear, but the fact that Kinsey is in so deep means they will not stop unless we find them all.”
“It’s not our job to find them, Rodney, it’s their job to clean up their own shit. Right now it looks like President Hayes and this General O’Neill are the ones in the clear at the top. They need to man up and clean their own damn house. I just want my son back.”
“We’re going to get them. They either give John back, or I’ll make sure they don’t have a place to hide. Secrets only work when the public is kept in the dark. If they take John, they take my life. There is nothing worse they can do to me than what they already plan to do. Give up a few secrets to the public so they can’t hide behind a shadow government? I’ll gladly pay that price.” Rodney pulled out his briefcase and started loading it. He had plenty of clothes at Sheppard’s home in Virginia, so he wasn’t worried about packing.
“We leave first thing in the morning, Patrick. Antoine is scheduling a special session at 2 pm. As a world leader, he can call a meeting to address his concerns, and it’s mandatory attendance. Let him do all the work. You’ve been making waves all over D.C. Let your lawyers keep making them. Don’t let them know that we know who’s who.”
“Ok, fine. But get some sleep, Rodney. I need you at the top of your game tomorrow. I want this over with.” Patrick tapped on the tabletop, and it rang through the phone.
“David always dreamed of being an astronaut when he was a child. He used to tell me that there were other worlds out there and he was going to explore them all. I’m angry at them all that they took a moment that should have been joyful, learning that there really is life out there and we can see it now, and turned it into something ugly. They’ve given up the idea of exploration and replaced it with rape and pillage. I want John to be safe, and I want David’s innocence back. And I don’t know if I can ever have either of those things ever again.”
“We’ll work together to make it happen, Patrick. You have my word.”
John lay in his bunk and listened to the sounds in the dark. And in the cells, it was pitch black. The only breaks in the black came from the stabbing beam of the flashlights when the guards checked on him. They had broken out battery-operated lanterns for some areas, and in a very few zones there was emergency lighting, but not in here.
Actually, John smiled every time they walked by with the lights. It was that much longer that Rodney was leading them around by the nose. It was relieving to know his husband was out there trying to save him. And Rodney was a complete and utter genius. He had already heard the bitching in passing about the lack of hot water for showers.
He had to practically smother himself with the pillow to keep from cackling out loud when he heard that the power and gas flow to the mess was shut off and they were quickly feeding everyone the food before it could spoil. They would be reduced to MREs within a day. The funny thing about it was that it didn’t happen until after they tried to feed John with crappy left-overs and put an entire shaker of salt in the food in front of him.
John turned in the direction of the camera and blew another kiss at it even if he couldn’t see it. The hot water, the food, air circulation fans in the gateroom. All of those things corresponded to treatment John received after the power was cut. Rodney and his team were watching through the base video, and no one here was smart enough to figure that out.
The sounds of multiple boots echoed in the dark, and John realized they were approaching. He shaded his eyes, and half turned toward where he knew there was a wall to save his eyesight when the lights appeared. He knew they were coming. The bright light of several lanterns flooded the room, and John grunted in pain while covering his entire face.
“Well, crap.” A voice he recognized called out. “Dim those down, guys.”
The light dimmed to a glow, and yet after hours in the dark, it was still painful. John felt his eyes watering as he forced himself to adjust to the change. He held still, his face stony as he tried to glare at the latest General to come make his life a misery.
“Sir, I have orders that no one is to see the prisoner.” His guard informed O’Neill.
“Well, corporal, I’m giving you orders to open the door and let me talk with the prisoner.” O’Neill glanced at the guard and then dismissed him, he focused on John instead.
“Yes, sir, but, Sir, Colonel Sumner has ordered that no one have contact with the prisoner. So I’m afraid I can’t let you pass.”
This time O’Neill turned and looked at the guard. “Son, I happen to know for a fact that they teach you in basic that an Air Force General ranks a Marine Colonel every time. And in this command, the food chain goes God, The President, and then Me. No one else’s opinions or orders matter. So, you will open that cell, you will allow Major Sheppard to exit, and then I think you will enter that cell and consider the consequences of refusing the direct order of your commanding officer.”
“But, Col. Sumner ordered…” Three of the men accompanying O’Neill raised their weapons. Less than a minute later one marine was in a cell and John was following O’Neill and his escorts to an office littered with books and artifacts. It looked more like a museum curator’s office.
O’Neill motioned John toward a chair and started rummaging around in a file cabinet. He came out with a jug of bottled water, a bag of coffee, and a Makita rechargeable coffee maker. John watched amused as he quickly set up the unit and put on a cup to brew. “No milk. Sugar?”
“Black,” John replied, thinking his life was surreal. John took the cup and leaned back, watching the General brew one of his own with maybe half a bag of sugar. “Handy.”
“Not the first time, and trust me, you don’t want to have to deal with an uncaffeinated Daniel when there’s no power and a problem to solve.” He leaned back in his chair and stared at John while sipping his coffee. John pretended to ignore him while he enjoyed the first coffee he’s had in days. In fact, it’s a pretty damn good cup of coffee, and he decided to find out the blend so he can get Rodney a case. Rodney and his team deserved a case.
“So, I went on vacation for a week and returned to find my mountain has a bit of a mess. It was a nice week. Cabin in Montana, fishing, relaxing. You know, just a few of the fun things in life. Then I run a little low on beer and decide to run into town to pick up a few. Funny thing was, my credit cards were canceled. Then I hit up the ATM for cash and first it ate my card, then the screen gave me a message.”
John slouched slightly in the chair, “Oh, what was the message?”
“Give me what I want, and I’ll give it back.”
“Seems to be a pretty common message around here.” John gave a little smirk and took another drink of the coffee.
“Took me a while to reach my command. Seems my government-issued phone was disconnected. But, when I reached my admin, I find out that the SGC has been offline for almost twenty-four hours now and no one knows if it’s a foothold situation because there are no communications in or out.”
John kept quiet and took another drink. It wasn’t like he’d been asked a question yet. As far as he was concerned, this might just be the good cop phase.
“Now, I can understand a bit of retribution. I understand that McKay has been in a snit for a while now over some misunderstanding…”
Oh, Hell no! John’s not standing for that, “Misunderstanding? Is that what you’ve decided to call it? You sold the man to Russia. I don’t think there was a misunderstanding in there. Unless you count the one where McKay thought he had free will to chose who he worked for and then learned that he didn’t.”
O’Neill leaned forward sharply, “Exaggerating a bit there, aren’t you? I don’t know what he told you, but he was willing to let a friend of mine die. We saved him anyway, and when we had to uphold our end of the deal with Russia over the naquadah generator project, we sent McKay to teach them. He was supposed to be there for six months but agreed to extend his assignment when they asked. We were told later that he accepted a job offer from the Russians.”
John just stared at him coldly before bursting his bubble. “Let me introduce you to the real world. The one where he served his six months in Siberia and then when it was over, he asked for transport home. He received an email with instructions that his assignment was extended another six months, and his access to Stargate data would be restricted until his return. When he complained, he found himself incarcerated in the quarters he was assigned. He had an escort at all times when he was allowed to leave it.”
“Two years later, they hauled the man to Moscow because some device they were demonstrating broke down and McKay was the only one that could figure out how to fix it. The first chance he got, he ran. He tried to run to the Canadian Embassy, but they were looking for him everywhere. So he stupidly tried the American Embassy for help and learned that Russia had reported a change in his citizenship status, so the U.S. considered him a security risk. If he hadn’t stumbled across me while he was hiding from a sweep, he would probably still be there.”
O’Neill looked a little gutted by that. “That’s not in the reports.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
“OK, so someone screwed up there and didn’t demand to…”
“I know for a fact you’re not that stupid. Someone was playing games with Russia and used McKay to pay for whatever they were getting. It’s the only thing that explains why there was so much push-back from the U.S. when we tried to straighten everything out. It’s why Sheppard R&D relocated to Canada because the U.S. was dragging its feet.” John shook his head and took in the general’s body language. “You’re still hung up on the friend you almost lost.”
“Yeah. He’s one of my best friends, and McKay had already written him off as lost.”
“I don’t know the situation. But I do know Rodney. He has absolutely lousy people skills. He rarely feels like explaining anything to anyone who can’t keep up with him, and let’s face it, not many people can. But he cares deeply, and it eats him alive when people get hurt. He had a meltdown over his niece scraping a knee. If he was walking away, then I guarantee you he thought he was right. Every scrap of data he had said the man was already gone. Whatever your plan to save him, I’m betting there was a good chance a lot more people could die doing it.” John shook his head, “I won’t try to make you change your mind, and like I said, I don’t know the details. But I’m willing to bet the data said he was right, and it was the data that was wrong.”
The frozen face neither accepted or denied the explanation, but John didn’t care. He would trust what he knew.
O’Neill waved it off, neither accepting or denying John’s claim, “Whatever, that’s the past. But right now, I have six teams off-world that don’t have a way home. They could be in serious trouble right now. Hurt, dying, I don’t know. But, it’s been made painfully clear to me that McKay is to blame for the lock-down. If I put you on the phone, are you willing to talk some sense into him?”
“He didn’t overreact. In my opinion, he saved my life. I’m not willing to stop him until we receive assurance that we’re free to go, and there will be no repeat performances or retribution. I want my people to have full amnesty.” John put down the cup and leaned back in the chair.
“Well, there is the little matter of breaking your NDAs.”
“You created a ZPM. Now that’s impressive, and we actually appreciate it, but you did have to share classified data to get there.” O’Neill tapped his fingers on the desk with each point.
“Funny you say that. I’ve never seen a ZPM. Not even sure what it stands for. What Rodney created is the first Ground State Energy Module. Now, I’m not stupid, and I figure we stumbled on something that has been created before by races that came before us. Maybe the Ancients, who knows. But the fact is, Elizabeth Weir admitted to me that she looked at our records. I sat in the chair in Antarctica, but no one there could tell me how it worked. I was working so hard to play catchup with the program when I was recruited, I never got around to asking about power sources.”
“And, as for Rodney, he was stuck in Siberia when the outpost was discovered. I doubt he even knows it exists. He was too busy trying to survive and escape. The man still has nightmares about it. When I pushed him, he said that the Program never had anything like it. That all you had were hopped up generators. Just generators. He worked out how to solve GSE in his head in captivity as a way to stay sane, and I won’t let any of you take that away from him.”
“OK, so that’s easy enough to verify. No harm, no foul. Get McKay to release the Mountain, and we’ll get this cleared up.”
“You really think it’s going to be that easy? I was kidnapped off a D.C. street by way of recall to active duty. I’m married to a man, so it’s universally stupid to recall me. But it was clear from the first moment that I was only recalled to get your hands on the GSEM. When that didn’t work, I was threatened, beaten, and then brought here to be shipped off-world to some private prison Sumner and his team run. It was made clear to me that a chance to prove my innocence was not on the table. I would be there already if it weren’t for Rodney.”
“Ok, that’s clear. Obviously, I have a problem. Let’s get this cleared up so I can solve mine.”
“You have a bigger problem than you know. Sumner answers to Weir only. His men are the same. I overheard Landry telling him that Weir wasn’t paying him enough to let McKay screw with his command. Just look at that guard. Show me a single marine that doesn’t hop to when a general says jump, but he blindly followed Sumner’s commands. All of the others are just like him. The only one they obey faster is Weir. Frankly, I’m a little freaked out how they all seem to spout the same party line. If I didn’t know better, I would say they were all brainwashed.”
O’Neill leaned back hard and just stared at John, “Well, crap.”
Joe was pacing in the War Room as she watched the General approach John’s cell. Her heart skipped when they pulled John out of the cell and threw the guard into it. This was either really great or really, really bad.
They took him two floors away to a room along a hallway. No cameras were inside to see what they were doing. It was almost twenty minutes later when John emerged from the room and held up a legal pad to the camera. Written boldly in marker was a phone number.
“Miko!” Joe motioned uselessly toward the screen.
Miko quickly accessed the base systems and tracked down the phone, restoring service. The moment it was available, she used their conferencing program to dial it.
On the screen, John jerked his head and then grinned and waved at the camera before disappearing back into the office.
“O’Neill.” A voice answered the call.
They all exchanged glances before Joe spoke up, “We would like to speak to Mr. Sheppard.”
There was a click, and then she could hear the slight echo of a speakerphone. “Hey, Joe.”
She swallowed hard. “Sir—it’s really good to hear your voice.”
“Yours too. Is Rodney there?”
“He’s in Virginia, with your family. There’s an IOA meeting later today.” She bit her lip.
“Damn, tell me you found something to help him there.”
“Yes, sir.” Joe straightened up. “He has records on severe corruption in that program. We have a list of people who are being funded by outside interests. You need to be careful there, John. The general running that place, Landry, is in deep.”
“I figured that one out.”
The other voice came back, “Can I get a copy of that? If you can get this computer in here back online, can you send me at least the list of suspects? It sounds like I need to do a little house cleaning out here.”
Joe exchanged glances with Jeannie, who grimaced before shrugging. “Mr. Sheppard?”
There was a brief hesitation. “Is O’Neill’s name on that list?”
“With all due respect, sir. I don’t trust any of you.” John replied tightly.
Joe rushed to reassure him. “No, sir. The records show General O’Neill, his aide, and the President are fine. Your Vice President Kinsey, however, is corrupt.”
Miko spoke up behind Joe, “You should have access to that computer now. I am keeping the remainder of the base locked down. Do you wish me to release that?”
“Tell ya what—let me see this list, and we can unlock areas as we clear them. I like the arrest now, question later method,” O’Neill said.
“While he’s looking over your list, can someone patch Rodney in here? I want to speak to him, and then I’ll need you guys to be our eyes in here.”
Joe smiled. “We’ve got your back, sir.”
“I never doubted it.” Joe could hear the smile in John’s voice.
Rodney took several deep, meditative breaths to calm himself. He couldn’t afford to show a moment of nerves when he walked into the viper’s nest. Marguerite was already in the chambers, playing her role. The Prime Minister of Canada asked to speak to the IOA Council, and she only knows it’s something to do with the mess McKay’s made in Vancouver. She’s keeping them interested with non-information. Rodney remembers it’s a skill she’s honed her entire life.
Antoine was currently in session with the U.S. President. He was officially meeting to provide details showing that Rodney and John were innocent of any NDA breach, and how to talk them into returning to the program with their new toys.
He heard the slight creak of the chair opposite him and opened his eyes to see Patrick watching him. “How are you?” Patrick asked.
“Nervous as hell, just knowing what we’re walking into…”
“You’ll be fine. Just do what I do.” Rodney raised an eyebrow in question, and Patrick smiled, “Remember that you are the most powerful person in that room. I have money to remind me of that, but you, Rodney, are the smartest person in that room. Don’t let them talk down to you. Don’t let them try to manipulate you. Don’t give up your power to them. They will try to take it. They will try to get you angry, to show you’re unstable. They will remind you of the worst things in your life or cater to your ego. They will do whatever they have to in order to get what they want out of you. We aren’t going to let that happen.”
“I’m not going to let that happen,” Rodney agreed.
He wasn’t going to lose control in there. He was going to be an arrogant pain in the ass. Patrick, on the other hand, was going to exude barely controlled rage. Rodney could see in his eyes that Patrick wasn’t even acting that role. He had burned like the sun when he was read into the program and learned that John had left the service rather than be forced into a suicide mission to another galaxy.
They arrived in the early morning hours and started planning their response. Their morning session was interrupted by the arrival of Jack O’Neill in Colorado. Rodney had almost hit his knees when Miko patched through a call to Daniel Jackson’s office. John’s voice was stressed but still just John, and it had been the sweetest thing he had ever heard. Once John had convinced them to bring O’Neill in on their operation, Rodney sent the data and the master list to the computer in that office only.
O’Neill had taken the information and set about cleaning up his shit. Radek was monitoring the situation and would release the Mountain as soon as O’Neill gave the signal. John was with him, and he had O’Neill’s word for what it’s worth that he would bring John to D.C. as soon as he had someone he could trust in control at the Mountain.
He was kinda pissed that John just joined right in on the cleanup, but that was John, never sending someone else to do the dirty work. He wanted to keep his eyes on it, but there was too much planning. A Major Davis had been sent by O’Neill to assist and coordinate security for today, but Rodney still worried that they had missed someone.
He was just glad they had Lou. She had taken one look at Davis’ troops and quietly warned him that the first person to touch either Patrick or Rodney would lose the hand that touched them. The fact that she stared him down and never cracked a smile unnerved the man to Rodney’s immense satisfaction.
There was a knock on the door, and it opened a crack to have a message passed through. Patrick accepted it when security handed it over, “the session has started. Antoine and Hayes are about to enter.”
Rodney stood up to get a glass of water. “I should check-in.”
“No, trust your people to stay on task.”
“I trust my people, it’s the ones in the Mountain I don’t give a fuck about.”
“I agree, in general. John’s a little too close to that stargate device for my comfort right now. I can’t believe they tried to force John.” Patrick took a deep, cleansing breath. “Let’s focus. Our plan by the numbers. Major Davis is already inside, and his men are in position. Lou and James will be with us. I received confirmation that David is in lockdown at the estate and pissed.”
Rodney grinned because David pissed off was a mini Patrick, but he had this moment when he was getting there that he looked like a little kid throwing a tantrum. “David will get over it and then bitch about it for a week. We should have sent him to the shield so he could moon over Miko and pretend he was in charge of something.”
Patrick just stared at Rodney a moment then barked a laugh, “He would. I’ll never repeat it to him, but he would.”
“I’ll repeat it to his face.” Rodney saw Patrick relax the slightest bit.
Patrick smiled slightly then quirked an eyebrow at Rodney before nodding his head once, “Thank you, I needed that.”
They sat in silence for a moment before another knock at the door drew their attention. There were whispers before Lou threw the door wide open and allowed entrance.
Rodney was up and moving before he realized he had practically shoved Patrick aside. He had no time to think as John drew him into a deep, desperate kiss. His world, his universe aligned, and he felt his heart begin to beat again. Hands touching, exploring, feeling every inch of skin he could reach. John was here. John was here, and alive, and real.
“Hey kids, maybe we can get you a room later?”
Rodney broke the kiss and turned to glare at Jack O’Neill. He pulled back to punch him in that smug face, but John grabbed hold and swung him back around. “That’s not the way to make friends, Rodney.”
The sound of a fist hitting flesh and a “What the Hell?” Had Rodney swinging around just in time to see O’Neill holding up a hand in surrender and Patrick cursing lightly while holding onto his right hand.
“Dad, you can’t just hit my CO.” John was torn between holding onto Rodney and grabbing his father. Rodney solved his dilemma by pulling John back. Let Patrick have his fun.
“I disa-fucking-agree, John. I can beat him into a pulp.” Patrick continued to glare.
“Excuse me, but I kinda thought people would be happy for the reunion.” Jack rubbed his jaw and then put his hands back up when Patrick moved.
“You tried to force my son to go on a one-way suicide mission! He would have disappeared, and all I would have gotten is a regret-to-inform-you letter.” Patrick’s eyes blazed.
Jack shook his head. “Hold on there. Just hold on a damn minute. That was completely a volunteer mission. Every single person on it had a choice. And, the moment Major Sheppard changed his mind, he was off the mission. No questions asked.”
“Hey!” Jack turned to look at John. “The moment you said no, I took you off the mission. Then you wanted to transfer out of the mountain, fine. I gave you three weeks leave to consider your options, and instead of a transfer, you applied for early discharge. I figured you weren’t the first who couldn’t handle the truth about the Project. Not everyone can.”
“This is more of that revisionist BS. Respectfully, sir, you need to stop believing every report you receive. At first, I said, why not? I mean not everyone can say they were the first to go to a new galaxy. And, everyone was excited because you’re building a spaceship for backup. It’s like every kid’s dream. Then I started reading reports and talking to people. So, when I figured out that the scientists on the mission had no clue how the tech really works, I said no. When my new mission CO, explained that he hated me and I was not to consider myself in the chain of command but should take orders from a green lieutenant just out of Annapolis, I said no. And when I realized that our expedition leader was obsessed with dying in order to live forever, I said Hell No. So, you gave me time to think about it, and while I did, I had Weir trying to seduce me into going. When I turned her down, I received notice that the IOA was rethinking the mission because of some of the questions I was asking. Then I receive some damn notice that I’m ordered to go because I’m to consider myself a mission-essential piece of equipment. So I pulled every string I could, and when you wouldn’t change the orders, I got myself out of the service.”
Jack was shaking his head no and looked angry. Good, Rodney thought, they could use a few more angry people in the meeting.
John entered the room one step behind O’Neill as befitted his rank. Letting go of Rodney at that moment was one of the most difficult things he had ever been forced to do. After almost a week of wondering if he would ever see him again, the separation was like a physical blow. The look in Rodney’s eyes showed the same for a moment before Rodney had dragged him back for a kiss and then let him go.
“Well, it looks like most of the gang is here. Started without me?” O’Neill strolled over to a seat and pulled it out before sitting relaxed in the chair. “Take a load off, Major.”
John sat at attention next to him, copying the Major on O’Neill’s other side. He took a moment to gauge the attitude of the people in the room. There was a lot of underlying tension in the room that had John searching for danger. Most only appeared mildly interested in O’Neill’s entrance. But, a few were giving John the side-eye, which told him that they were aware of his identity. President Hayes seemed happy to see him, and the Canadian PM gave John a small smile and nod, barely perceptible. Vice President Kinsey, however, looked like he was sucking on a lemon.
Hayes smiled that big politician smile of his, “Jack, glad you could join us. Prime Minister Lemoine here was just bringing us up to speed on the issues with the Shield in Canada.”
“Oh? I was given an update on the plane here, looks like the main problem is getting Sheppard Industries to play ball.” Jack leaned back like he didn’t have a worry in the world.
“There is nothing to negotiate. We need that shield, and the zpm powering it. Dr. Weir has already explained the importance of the discovery.” The U.K. rep stated. John took a quick look at him, judging how deep he was in it.
“Yeah, about that, just where is Dr. Weir now?” Jack looked around at the group innocently. John was wondering that as well.
Davis stepped in, “Sir, I have it on good authority that she is on her way here. Her attorney’s just handled a miscommunication that led to her incarceration.”
Jack’s eyebrows both climbed up his forehead. “I think that’s a story I want to hear, Major.”
Vice President Kinsey jumped in, “I see no reason to waste the time of this committee delving into rumor and innuendo. Dr. Weir is a lady and deserves her privacy.”
Marguerite Lemoine leaned her head forward onto her fist. “I don’t consider this rumor or gossip. How can we allow her to represent this body if her reputation has been called into question?” She cocked her head toward Major Davis’ direction, “So what were the charges against the good doctor?”
“Ahem, prostitution ma’am.”
She sighed, then leaned back yawning, “Oh, I thought you were going to tell us something we didn’t know about her.”
“Marguerite!” Antione chastised her, “You should not propagate rumor until it can be verified.”
The door opened, and the person in question entered. Her hair was pulled back severely and just slightly fuzzed and off-center as if she had been attempting to braid it back quickly in the car without benefit of a brush. She had the look of someone who had dressed hurriedly to catch the meeting, and there were little finishing touches missing. It wasn’t the polished appearance John remembered so well.
Marguerite gave a little mischievous grin before speaking, “Elizabeth, dear. So happy you made it. Can you clear up a question for us? You see, we were told you were arrested for being a whore, and I wanted to know if the report was accurate.”
Weir’s face flushed angrily, but before she could reply, Hayes stepped in. “That is a very crude term. I would prefer you focus on the titles prostitute or sex worker. We try not to blame people for the situations they find themselves in.”
“Of course, Henry. I am sorry if I upset you, sir.”
John silently choked and had to grab the glass of water in front of him. That brought his presence to her attention. John could see her surprise and then anger. She lightly glanced around the guards inside the room, from both the U.S. and Canada, before rigidly taking a seat at the table.
“I would like to know why I’m here today.” Elizabeth started.
“I would like to know why you’re here today, too, Elizabeth dear. We all appreciate the work you do for us, but you don’t actually have a place at this table, now do you? If you’re bored, I’m sure we can find something for you to do. But you should leave the speaking to the people who work for a living. ” Marguerite replied cattily.
Elizabeth stiffened further, and John noted that most of the men in the room were becoming a bit upset at the continued attack on Weir’s character. O’Neill was watching closely as well, and he caught John’s eye on a sweep.
“Ms. Lemoine, you would do well to treat me with the respect I deserve.”
“I do, sweetheart.”
“Lady Elizabeth has earned her place here, and I must insist you speak to her with honor and respect.” And there goes Spain into the mix.
“Gentlemen, and Ladies, why don’t we just calm everything down and get back to our purpose today. Antoine here would like to bring Mr. Patrick Sheppard, CEO of Sheppard Industries, and Dr. Rodney McKay into the meeting to discuss his latest discoveries and see if we can reach an understanding for the Stargate Program.” The President smiled big and motioned toward the assistant in the room.
The woman was already moving and out the door when voices were raised in complaint. A loud whistle pierced through the noise, and John sat back surprised by O’Neill’s range.
“Hey, can we have a touch of quiet in here?” One of the IOA reps started to open his mouth, and O’Neill used his fingers snapping shut to motion, “Uh-uh. Quiet. Ahh, yes.”
Hayes and Antoine just traded looks and laughed silently at Jack’s antics. John just marveled that these are the people making world-altering decisions.
The door soon opened to allow Patrick Sheppard to sweep in as if he owned the universe. Rodney followed, chin stuck out in that stubbornly bored expression he frequently employed when they were forced into an executive meeting that he was convinced was a waste of his time because he could not bother himself to dumb down to the level of those he was forced to share air with. It was an expression John adored because it was frequently followed with something utterly scathing and inappropriate.
John forced himself to avoid eye contact with Lou and her entire security detail. He noted that several of O’Neill and Davis’s teams had been interspersed. Dad and Rodney, however, demanded so much attention that no one seemed to notice the extra security.
“Thank you for coming today, Mr. Sheppard, Dr. McKay.” The Chairman of the Committee, a little twit from France that was practically simpering at Weir started. “We have much to discuss in order to fit your company into its proper place in our operation.”
“Excuse me,” Dad said, and it was that tone of voice that John had called his holy retribution voice as a child.
The Chairman just paused with his mouth open.
“I was invited here today so that you people can attempt to explain why you believe you have the right to interfere in my business.” He powered on through the negative noises that poured forth at his statement. “Do not waste my time. Myself, my company, and especially my son and son-in-law deserve your formal apologies for your recent actions.”
“Now wait just one moment. Your son and Dr. McKay completely ignored their NDAs and worked on a classified project without authorization. Work on the ZPM project is classified to the highest levels. Your company needs to turn over all the work and the ZPM prototype to this council for further study,” the Chinese rep demanded.
“I don’t think so,” Rodney stated, before reaching over and taking the water bottle from in front of John. “I’m bored, and frankly you people are wasting what little patience I have. I’m going to bill each of your governments my standard rate for taking up my time today.”
He took a drink then slowly screwed on the lid. “So, let’s just get a few items straight. Since I’ve never seen this ZPM you are talking about, I think it’s blatantly ridiculous to say I’ve broken an NDA. I have never shared or worked on Stargate information, in fact, I think I’m confident stating that I prefer not to share air with any of you. So supposition one is proven incorrect.”
“Second, John did not have any input into the GSEM project beyond the occasional math. We made a firm agreement the day we met and realized we were both read into the program that we would never speak about it since there was no way to determine if we were both read in at the same level. Why? Because I’m a genius and frankly he’s smarter than all of you,” Rodney gestured around the room with the water bottle, “so we weren’t stupid enough to take that risk.”
“Third, since I am smarter than all of you, it’s clear that letting any of you idiots see any data related to my proprietary projects is a ludicrous idea. So, access is off the table.”
Elizabeth leaned in, “Doctor McKay, I think you need to learn your place here. I understand that you were beginning to understand that you are not quite as smart as you think you are in Russia.”
John shifted, and O’Neill gripped his arm under the table and gave a negative movement of the head. John made a fist but kept his expression the same. His father did not feel so inclined.
“I believe it is you who needs to learn your place. What exactly are you doing here? I was under the impression that I was meeting with the people who have the power to make decisions. Instead, I find some minor annoyance interjecting her vapid thoughts into my business. Why don’t you get your little fanny in gear and put it to use serving your betters.” Patrick said in the most condescending attitude he could muster.
Weir pushed up from the chair before standing up into her full height, while seeming to look down her nose at everyone. “Betters? You believe you are my betters. I am a queen, I am a goddess, you should fall to your knees and worship me.” Her eyes glowed briefly, and it wasn’t in madness alone. “Before I finish, you will crawl at my feet and beg for my attention.”
She moved toward Patrick as he stood his ground before her and reached out to grab his lapel. Moving so fast she was barely visible, Lou kicked out and knocked Weir across the table. “No one touches my protectee.”
Men around the table jumped up to help Weir, but all were met with weapons as the security brought into the room by O’Neill and Patrick began zatting everyone who resisted. The President and Prime Minister were pulled into a protective placement, while John grabbed Rodney and pulled him to the exit side of the room and placing himself directly in front of his husband for protection.
Lou was not so inclined to halt her actions. She moved forward, continuing to fight as the goa’uld tried to use superior strength and ordered her “worshippers” to defend her. When it was clear that Lou had won the battle and they were surrounded, the goa’uld spoke in that odd voice. “You have proven worthy of my attention. You shall serve me well as a new host.”
There was an unholy scream as the snake suddenly left her body and shot forward toward Lou. Shouts from O’Neill and others were inconsequential as Lou reached out in mid-air, grabbed the goa’uld, and then drew her weapon and fired it at the head of the snake. She held it steady until the quivering stopped, then dropped it to the ground.
“How dare you kill a queen!” Kinsey’s eyes glowed, and his voice reverberated.
“Well, fuck,” O’Neill responded just before he discharged the zat at Kinsey. “Now I have to figure out which was the ass, Kinsey or the snake.”
John greeted General O’Neill at the front door of the Sheppard family home in Virginia and led him back to the study. The IOA meeting had concluded with a bang five days ago and the man looked like he hadn’t slept since. Not surprising when you find out the Vice President had been taken over by a goa’uld.
John had spent the time wrapped around Rodney. Especially after he woke with nightmares the first night and John learned of the kidnapping attempt. Rodney was currently communicating with their team in Canada as they tracked down information with wild abandon for the SGC.
“General, how is your cleanup of the SGC going?
O’Neill shrugged, “It’s a mess. Everyone is undergoing a full background on an extremely uncomfortable level. The organization they found is called the Trust. It’s a shadow agency of the NID, but they are willing to get what they want by any means. Thought they were gone, but apparently the goa’uld found them and decided to take over. By the way, thank your people for all the data. Carter and Daniel were impressed.”
John nodded and was silent a moment, considering, “Have you been able to get the snakes out of people?”
The general pursed his lips while taking a deep breath and then blew it out in a single huff. “We’re still working our way through it. Of the six snakes we’ve identified so far, we’ve been able to extract two. I have some friends coming to help with the rest. Kinsey is a problem. Seems when you take the snake out of the man he’s a bigger asshole than with one. He’s been deep in the Trust since it’s inception. They had a plan to assassinate Henry so they could get a goa’uld in office. We haven’t decided yet what we’re doing about that mess.”
“And Dr. Weir?”
“Well, it seems the only thing keeping her sane was the snake. You were right, she was completely round the bend. She talks fanatically about ascension to anyone that will speak to her. She let loose with all of her plans to use you. She wanted your gene in more ways than one.” He grimaced, “The snake was planning on using you and your gene to breed goa’uld with the gene once you reached Pegasus.”
“Yeah, queens can take a—ahem—genetic sample to breed. I know she wasn’t snaked when you all had the pre-mission physical, but they got to her sometime after that. The snake was the one trying to seduce you, but you didn’t react to the nish’ta.”
John was kinda reeling here, but there was a lot he didn’t understand. “Nish’ta?”
“It’s a chemical the goa’uld queens can secrete that acts as a mind-control drug. That’s why so many of the men were acting brainwashed. Three-quarters of the IOA Committee were infected. She’s been building her little fiefdom, and we didn’t see it.” O’Neill was silent a moment before shaking it off. “Anywho, we are methodically clearing that up and separating the simply infected from the complicit.”
“Have you been able to locate Col. Sumner yet, sir?”
“No, he and his main team are in the wind. I have SG-2&6 going over each prisoner in their base to verify if they belong there. So that’s another mess, but one I can deal with. I would appreciate it if you would keep an eye open. According to those in the Mountain that are fit to report, he had a serious hate-on for you and McKay. But, I would prefer to get him back alive. I need to determine if he was under the influence or acting of his own volition.”
“I’ll talk to Lou, but no promises.” John knew it wouldn’t matter to Lou. She would take whatever action she determined necessary and to hell with anyone else’s wishes. O’Neill seemed to get it and shook his head.
“Is that all you wanted, sir? To give me an update?”
“No, we still have a giant mess to clean up. Sheppard Industries PR has been doing a great job of explaining the shield and the power source. There is a daily “shield report” running that documents how many days the shield has been up. We would like to keep that going for a little while to give people something to focus on. In fact, I would like your help with this as well.”
“I would like you to consider staying in the service. I need officers I can trust, and right now, I’m overwhelmed with digging the corruption out of my command.”
“You do realize I’m gay?” John shook his head, “What about DADT?”
“I can get a presidential waiver for you on that.”
“I’m not sure I would feel comfortable knowing that I had a waiver while everyone else doesn’t. I would be taking serious chances with safety when some homophobic jarhead decides to teach me the error of my ways.”
“Not in my command.” O’Neill insisted before he suddenly winced. John knew the general was looking at the vestiges of his black eye. “Ok, then a waiver until Henry can change the law. I’ve told him before that I can’t hold to it in my command when we are out meeting with other races. Daniel is always harping on the fact that homophobic and xenophobic go hand in hand. Just, don’t worry about that, I can have it changed in three to six months.”
John didn’t think it was that simple, but it was O’Neill’s problem. “There’s also Rodney and Sheppard Industries to think about.”
“Yeah, so, I was hoping that if I could convince you to stick around, I might be able to contract them, too. See, Area 51 is a mess. I’ve lost over half the base to corruption. Landry has been taking bribes for years. The chief scientist out that way, Kavanagh, not only has been blackmailing several people, he’s been screwing up the science. A lot of people in our sciences have walked away instead of working with him. And the company that was building our first spaceship was owned by a goa’uld.”
O’Neill leaned back and looked at John, “I would like you to take over as CO and McKay as Chief of Science. Then I would like your help to talk your father into bringing Sheppard Industries on board to correct the issues and finish building the ship. In fact, Sheppard Industries is in a unique position to allow us to start introducing the science and technology we find out there to the general public.”
John stared a moment before turning his head to look out the window. Was it worth it? He had finally found happiness with Rodney and his family. Was it worth it to take the chance?
“This isn’t something I can just decide for everyone. You’re asking for a lot here.”
“I know, I would like to say take all the time in the world, but frankly…I need to take action here. I’ll give you three days. Then all in or not. I can’t give you all out, because we desperately need the toys McKay can produce. But I promise, no coercion.”
“And if I say no?”
“Recall rescinded, and the President will assure your file restricts you from future recall.” Jack looked at him, then stood up. “Think about it, talk about it. Call me when you decide. I’ll show myself out.”
John watched him go while his mind was turning over every word.
Rodney stumbled a little and John reached out to steady him before wrapping an arm around his shoulders. He leaned into John’s warmth the way he always did, and John felt himself relax. The dinner had been fantastic, with Dad and David leaving them alone for the first time since John got back. They had even left the house to give them a little privacy. John had to admit the candlelight was perfect.
Now they were taking a little nighttime stroll across the property. Rodney repeatedly stated that he hated the horses, but John found it endearing that he always brought them treats, and they seemed to universally like Rodney. It was a little late to see them now, but they were taking one of the paths that led near the stables.
The sky was clear, and stars sparkled brightly above them as John directed them to the little hidden garden his mother had loved so well.
It was Rodney who broke the silence, of course. “Do you think your father will win his concessions with the IOA?”
“Do you really think there’s a chance he will lose?” John raised an eyebrow and looked at Rodney, “They need us more than we need them. You saw the reports on the mess out there. They’re desperate to get you and your team involved. But Dad is going to make sure your intellectual property rights are protected. Any scientist who is involved will need to be an employee of SI. As such, no single government can claim patent to their work.”
“I was always so wrapped up in the science, I know there were things at first they stole from me. I learned quickly, but some of these people are so indoctrinated into doing the right thing because of what’s out there that they don’t even realize they have rights.” Rodney shook his head and then started to laugh.
“If Jack O’Neill doesn’t watch out, Patrick is going to own the Program before he’s through.”
John smiled, “Did you see the way O’Neill was scoping out Dad’s ass? I don’t think he’ll care.”
“No, really? Why do I miss that stuff? Are you sure he’s…? What am I saying, of course he is. All of those missions stuck off-world with Daniel Jackson? According to the mission reports, they never came back overly stressed from those. Damn, you are right.” Rodney thought about it, “Should we warn Patrick?”
“Rod-ney. Did you not see the tight-fitting jeans Dad was wearing when he left? He was just headed to O’Neill’s so they could discuss a few points.” John smirked.
Rodney froze a moment then huffed. “Why are we talking about your father’s ass when we are finally alone for the first time in two weeks?” Rodney asked petulantly.
“You started it. I can think of better things to do with these lips than talk about my father and O’Neill.” John leaned in to nuzzle at Rodney’s neck.
“Yesss, much better idea.” Rodney melted into him, “No more talking about the choices. We’ve already made a promise that whatever we decide, we go together.”
“That’s a promise I think needs to be sealed with a kiss.” John murmured. Then he pushed Rodney back against the tree and let their lips do the speaking for the foreseeable future.
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